All you need to know about Left-Wing and Right-Wing

We keep on hearing terms like, Left-wing and Right-wing or Leftist or Rightist or Socialist or Communist; however only few of us do understand appropriately what they actually mean.  How do both, Left and Right, political ideology -a political party’s fundamental ideas and principles on which it aspires to function its machinery to rule a state- emerge into political spectrum and lay down the basis for the two colliding ideologies?

The Origin

The story is rather intriguing. Back in 1789, when the French were undergoing an absolute crisis: Almost two decades of poor harvests, drought, food shortage, and, adding to the misery, the imposition of inhuman hike in taxes as France had fallen into debt for her active financial-involvement, for means they needed for militarization, and King Louis XVI’s extravagant spending, a rumor began to go round of an impending military coup. Dejected and furious, a mob stormed the Bastile fortress, a prison, where protesters were locked up, in the quest of gunpowder and weapons on July 14, 1789, considered the commencement of the French revolution.

The aftermath of the attack, The National Assembly gathered with a principal goal: writing a new constitution. One of the main issues of the debate was how much power should the king have. Eventually, those who believed the king should have an absolute veto sat on the right of the president of the assembly, and others who believed he should not, sat on the left.
So, those sat on the right were later called the right, and other, the left.

The Political Spectrum

Let us understand what both the political ideologies mean through political spectrum
Left-wing right wing spectrum
The Political Spectrum
Img Source: Wikipedia

The center position at this spectrum shows those who strike a fine balance between both the ideologies and favor none of the both specifically, called centrist.

From center, we are to measure where a political party or institution tends to - Left or Right. From the time of their inception to today in the 21st century, the definitions and ideals of both have changed a great deal in due course of time. Most of the parties across the world cannot be termed as Left or Right parties; they are better defined in the measurement of their tendency to these ideologies- Left-leaning and Right-leaning.
In spectrum, those on center-left are called liberals, with their policies or ideology being a bit Left-leaning.

In the same way, those on far-left are called socialist.
Those on the furthest-left are called radicals or communists, with extremely left views.

In spectrum, those on center-right are considered conservatives, with their policies or ideology being a bit right-leaning.

In the same way, those on far-right are called libertarians.
Those on the furthest-right are called fascists, with extremely right views.

Left Ideology

As their beliefs revealed in the sitting order at the National Assembly back then, they firmly believe in progressive, revolutionary views.  They want to implement revolutionary changes in society for the well-being of people. They are of the opinion that the government is meant to look after its people and provide them with all the possible means: free public education, healthcare and etc to lead them a healthy life. A good amount of emphasis is sought to be laid on individual rights, personal freedom and equality among citizens, however rich or poor they may be, by the left. The ideals and values set by the left are vast; no political party or group follows them in its entirety, but to a certain degree. We can classify them under the following category.

Liberalism, political doctrine, says that every person living in society is entitled to certain rights, and the government is to protect and ensure individual freedom as long as it does not interfere with others’. Indian constitution provides fundamental rights to its citizens under article 12 to 35 of the constitution in part III.

Socialism emphasizes public control on properties to ensure equal distribution-in oppose to capitalism which endorses a free market- among people. Socialists argue that the concept of privatization or a free market emits benefits in few hands rather than a mass audience; having earned wealth and power, they try to gain dominance in society to expand their business, succumbing to their personal luxury than a larger good. In simple words, considering today’s rapidly changing world, socialists seek control over privatization where services are directly attached to people like in petroleum, railways, education, etc.  

Communism, sometimes used interchangeably with socialism, can be termed as an advanced form of socialism. However, there are some key differences between socialism and communism. Unlike socialism which allows “private ownership” to a certain extent, communism favors properties to be completely owned by the community, and each person receives a portion from it based on their necessity. Communism does not prevent, unlike socialism which searches for democratic means under the existing political system to attain their ambitions, a violent revolution in which the workers rise up against the middle and upper classes is seen as an inevitable part of achieving a pure communist state. China is the biggest country in the world that has adopted communism as its medium to govern the state. However, they have welcomed various changes to their system and allowed privatization from 1997, making them economically-right wing and socially-left wing.

Right Ideology

Of course, they also work for the well-being of society; like every established political ideology does. Unlike leftists, its followers value massively the rooted elements of society, tradition and culture; put above anything else emotions and duty towards nation, nationalism and patriotism; choose to stay out of people’s affair, as much as possible, endorsing the view that every person holds responsibility for his individualistic position in society. Conservative in nature, they demand an open market to extend everybody an equal opportunity run a business or an organization, and support privatization in major sectors  to enhance efficiency and bring about competitiveness in market, thereby, benefitting the economy.
How much a person or party tends to right-wing, can be measured on how far they go to the right axis, on a 2-D political spectrum.

Conservatives hold a view that society not only comprises individuals but also diverse beliefs, traditions and culture, and they are needed to be preserved along with the actions for their welfare. In contrast to liberals, they believe culture, value system, religious beliefs and rituals inherited from the past add a significant value to the current shape of the moral structure of a community, thus, they are not to be destroyed in the name of modernization. They are averse to the idea of bringing about  revolutionary changes in the already established and stable –to a certain extent- institutions, various thought process or religious beliefs prevailing in any community or society.

Libertarians endorse personal liberty of all dimensions, be it personal or be it economical. They believe that people should have the liberty to live their life the way their wish and government should stay out of people’s general affairs unless they fail to maintain law and order, commit crimes or indulge in activities against the nation’s interest. Thereby, the concept of the free market is supported under this philosophy, in turn,  extension of equal opportunities to all.   

Fascists promote nationalism at any cost. Fascism as a political ideology seem to be a complex term to define as fascists parties and their movements differed significantly from one other; however they share many characteristics in common: Extreme militaristic nationalism, contempt for electoral democracy and aversion to personal liberty, etc. Fascism is authoritarian, with dictatorial power, the forcible imposition of ideas and rules being its major traits. Adolf Hitler in Germany and Benito Mussolini in Italy were prominent fascist leaders.       

Standpoint on key matters

Economic Policy    

Liberals believe in income equality among people, the imposition of taxes more on the wealthier, strict regulations on business, government expenditure more on infrastructure, while conservatives in free business with least possible restrictions, lower taxes and government spending in a balanced manner.

Health Care 

Liberals advocate that health care should be affordable to everybody, and free to the underprivileged, the oppressed, While conservatives, as they support the free-market, allow private sectors to function as they wish to.


Liberals endorse education to all irrespective of their capabilities to meet the expenses that go with it. And, of course, support control on private institutions to prevent rocketed-fees, whereas conservatives believe in public education too, but with their firm promise to not interfere in private sectors unless it circumvents or violets the law or system.

Immigration Policy 

Liberals seem to choose an apathetic path to this. They neither support it nor oppose it unequivocally; However, right-wing supporter demands for a strict regulation to protect the well-fare of the localized population.

Environmental Policies 

Liberals demand a well-drafted policy to stop or reduce any activities prone to the loss in biodiversity, cause excessive deforestation, or serve the reason for damage in the environment  largely, even if these activities generate employments for many. However, conservatives seem to draft rather soft rules and regulations to gain economically and don’t interfere unless excessive exploitation of any natural resource as mentioned by authorities.

Liberals support minority abortion and same-sex marriage, and conservatives don’t get along with these ideas. 

 Case Studies

·        Left rule in Bengal

   West Bengal was governed by communists, CPI-M, for straight 34 years, 1977- 2011 before Mamta Banerji became CM of the state in 2011, and has gone on to be re-elected since then. Let us asses briefly the rule on three major fronts: Economic conditions, work done to alleviate the underprivileged or social transformation and Infrastructure building.

In 1960, West Bengal had the highest per capita GDP of any state in India. From 1980-81 to 1990-91, its per capita growth rate slumped to 2.3% and ranked 13 among all states in India. In 1980-81, West Bengal accounted for 7.2% of the country’s GDP at factor cost at current prices. Ten years later, it went down to 6.1%. By 2000-01, its share of GDP went up a bit to 6.3%. The ecosystem provided to industries was greatly conducive. Therefore, many industries chose to shut their operations in Bengal, leading to a huge loss in Employment in the state. Industrial development was ruined, hence, the economy suffered huge losses during the regime. The share of West Bengal in the total value of industrial output in India declined from 9.8% in 1980-81 to 5% in 1997-98.

The biggest social reform, you may term, was brought about by the left front during their rule was land reforms, called ‘Operation Barga’. The plots were handed over to more than a million small farmers, which helped the state increase agriculture share in the state’s GDP and farmers live in more sustainability than before. The statistics from NSS suggests improvement in West Bengal’s rank by 4 steps, from eleven to seven, in the course of 10 years, from 1977-78 to 1987-88. They brought down the headcount of those living below the poverty line from 52.2% in 1977-78 to 24.7% in 2004-05, better than the average of the whole India, which was at 27.5%. They have done reasonably well in literacy- but not revolutionarily well.   

In 1980-81, West Bengal’s index was 110.6, in State Level Performance under Economic Reforms in India, in which the all-India figure is taken as 100; 10.6% better than India’s average. It started going into a tailspin and reached 90.8% in 1996-97. Excessive focus on social reforms and rigidity to have control over business threw them under huge debt, leading to high inflation rates in the state.
However, In Kerala, where government at large is of socialist view, policies have been implemented in a much healthier way. But, even inflation rates are high than that of India’s average.

·        Economic reforms by Narsimha Rao 

In 1991, India has witnessed the unprecedented transformation in its economic policy to accommodate rapid industrialization and needs for globalization. Before 1991, India had adopted the socialism policy, like the soviet union, for the economy, making it difficult for foreign companies to establish their business in India. Under the leadership of our 9th prime minister, Narsimha Rao, India went on to open to the free market. For this, steps like, the abolition of industrial licensing, allowing foreign investment, reducing the import duties encouragement to the private sector and coexistence of the public sector and private sector were taken by the government. The government did not shy away from taking as bold a decision as devaluing the Indian currency to increase the export and to provide the economy a prolonged-required boost. The model was also called the LPG model of growth, which entailed Liberalization, Privatization and Globalization. The unprecedented moves have resulted in a growth rate of 5–6 percent per annum since 1990. India’s GDP grew more than 9 times bigger from around 31.7 crore USD in 1990 to about 2.8 trillion USD in 2020.
Economic Reforms 1991
PV Narsimha Rao
Img source: Wikipidea

Most eminent economists across the World favor conservative’s approach to the economy, which is free-market policy. Today, to strike a balance between both the ideologies and to have the best of both worlds, a great number of countries seem to adopt socially-left and economically-right  policies to address the cries of the poor and boost the economy at the same time, which would eventually provide more opportunities and extend more benefits to every section of society.

I recommend you read all the points and decide which ideology do you favor more, and also comment why? 

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